Posted by on Feb 26, 2013 in Matthew Leifheit | No Comments

Photo by Matthew Leifheit for CCNY

Nir Arieli

Born 1986 Tel Aviv, Israel


Nir Arieli’s photographs are beautiful. Picturing male dancers in glowing natural light Arieli steals the physical beauty of his subjects, elegantly transferring it into still images. A frenetic unrest scratches at the surface throughout his series, presenting signs of a struggle beneath the placid picture plane. Tension exists between perfection and imperfection. Tension exists in the very muscles of his sitters. Tension even extends to the viewer in the act of looking at men in this way. Movement is suggested or even depicted explicitly, but the final images are very still. Arieli’s photos preserve moments of balance and grace, leading to the polished contrapposto that gives his pictures gravity.

Arieli only photographs men. Choosing subjects primarily from The Julliard School’s dance program, Arieli slowly sculpts the photograph through communication. “We worked in front of a white wall and he told me certain things he wanted within the composition including muscular tension and contortion with a relaxed focus in the eyes,” says Austin Goodwin, an undergraduate dancer at Julliard and repeated subject of Arieli’s photographs. “He asked me to move extremely slowly through different positions with my upper body. Throughout this he would stop me and we would explore whatever was working best. Occasionally I would try something different to see if it was cohesive with his idea and from there the collaboration continued between me inserting movement suggestions and Nir giving direction as to focal specifics and body angles. It was a very organic process.”


Arieli’s video work is made the way a photographer should make video, the camera at a fixed point, the frame unwavering. The only thing moving in the picture is the subject himself, performing for the viewer. “Dancers are performers, the process of creating a still image gives them a similar satisfaction to the one they get when the lights come up on stage,” says Arieli to MATTE, “The camera functions as the audience. They are eager to actively contribute to the success of the work. I’m often working with them in a very abstract way of directing, and they are able to translate my words into physical states.”

Beginning his career as a military photographer for the Israeli magazine Bamachane, Arieli now focuses with reticence on beauty. “Beauty is an essential part of every body of work I make. I’m in love with it but I also know I can’t be married to it in the most traditional sense,” says Arieli. His new series entitled “Inframen” looks beneath the skin of his subjects. Exposing flaws in the sitter’s physicality through an infrared process, Arieli freezes these artists at what he considers to be a pivotal time in their lives. “I’d like the viewer to disconnect from the glorious immortal dancer’s image they know from the stage, and notice the fragility of these people, the contrast of their gentle souls against their strong bodies. The ridiculous situation in which the dancer’s whole existence is dependent on his body, and that youth is gone in such a young age. In that sense this project is a lullaby for this beautiful stage in a dancer’s life, when they’re at their best physical shape,” says Arieli. “From now on the body will betray them slowly.” -MATTE Magazine for CCNY


Posted by on Feb 18, 2013 in Matthew Leifheit | No Comments


Aneta Bartos, photo by Matthew Leifheit for CCNY


Photographs by Aneta Bartos, curated by Jon Feinstein

At the Carlton Arms Hotel, 160 E 25th Street NYC, rooms 1A and 4A

31 January — 21 February 2013


The Carlton Arms Hotel is entered by pressing a buzzer and then walking up a flight of stairs littered with hand-lettered warning signs not to let the cats escape. The current installation of Aneta Bartos’ series “Boys” curated by Jon Feinstein can be viewed by requesting the keys to rooms 1A and 4A at the front desk, where a checklist of images and curatorial statement are also available. After adjusting to the dim light in the room, some normal fixtures of a hotel become apparent- a charmingly shabby desk, a bed. On the warm gray walls hang murky photographs of young men masturbating in thick cream-colored mattes.

Feinstein and Bartos met as a result of the 2012 exhibition “31 Women in Art Photography” (read my article on this show for Time Magazine’s Lightbox), a large group show which Jon Feinstein curated with Natalia Sacasa for the nonprofit organization he cofounded, Humble Arts Foundation. “The work we included in that exhibition was not part of “Boys” but was equally compelling,” said Feinstein to MATTE, “Aneta approached me shortly after that to work with her on this show. I found her work to be challenging, provocative and beautiful, and much different than other photographers I’ve worked with over the past few years.”

Bartos balances the provocative subject matter of these photographs with a pictorialist treatment. She favors Polaroid media to produce this painterly sfumato, resulting in mottled texture and a warm palette.  As Bartos puts it, “I love its quality of a distilled mood.” This approach sweeps the pictures firmly out of the realm of pornography and places them in conversation with painting. The images add to the historical dialogue photography has had with painting. They also comment on the ways in which photography is commonly used in the porn industry. These are erotic images of men made by a woman. “I wanted to challenge what is visually and expressively excepted as beauty in male condition when sexuality is owned by a female perspective,” says Bartos. Feinstein also sees the work as a challenge to current societal norms. “I think now is especially important as we’ve become so accustomed to seeing overly sexualized images of women in the media, in fashion, art etc, but somehow there’s a turn of the head to images of male nudity.”

All of the photographs in the exhibition were shot in rooms at The Carlton Arms. “I first discovered the hotel in 2006,” says Bartos, “I loved it’s crazy-eclectic surreally seedy and gloomy vibe.” Exhibiting these photographs in the same space they were made in completely alters the footing of the viewer. Instead of the separation the audience is usually afforded by a traditional gallery space from the actual scene being depicted in a photograph, this installation plants the viewer at the scene of the crime. “I think the dim, old New York atmosphere of the hotel gives a completely different, and much more intimate read than seeing them in a Chelsea white-space gallery,” adds Feinstein.

Feinstein and Bartos at The Carlton Arms Hotel, photo by Matthew Leifheit for CCNY

When asked if the experience of making these pictures is sexual to her, Bartos answers, “Of course it is.” Her subjects are not freelance exhibitionists culled from the internet. Instead Bartos chooses to photograph close friends and people she has known for a long time. By setting the exhibition at The Carlton Arms the viewer is invited into these relationships. Initmacy between subject and photographer is shared with the audience, disturbing the sense of voyeurism typically inherent in viewing pornographic images.

These pictures today represent a very subversive take on beauty. By looking at them we indulge in Bartos’ curiosity, and we gladly become her partner in crime.  -MATTE Magazine for CCNY

Posted by on Feb 13, 2013 in Matthew Leifheit | No Comments

Photograph by Matthew Leifheit for CCNY

1989 Brewster, NY


Bobby Doherty is an oracle of the inane.

Doherty chooses not to work within the bounds of a series. Instead, through a language of gestures that vary in subtlety yet maintain the same indefinable spirit, he creates an interchangeable index of obtuse symbols. The subject matter of these photographs varies widely, but the images are held together by the same undertone- a certain kind of mischievousness tempered with deep sincerity and humor. All of Doherty’s pictures are aesthetically coherent as well, veering toward more graphic compositions over time and increasingly marked by bold use of color.


These photos both contribute to and play on the lineage of stock photography and traditional studio photography. One image goes so far as to make use of a Paul Outerbridge photograph as part of the still life. “I think a lot about stock photography,” said Doherty to MATTE, “It’s funny because you’re not exactly meant to feel anything about a stock photo, yet their prime function is to convey some sort of idea in the most obvious way. If anyone were to go into a supermarket and start complimenting the stock food photographs on the coupons they would seem like a total weirdo. But those photographs were chosen specifically because someone thought people would enjoy them.”



At first glance Doherty’s pictures act nonchalant. And then the viewer begins to notice his intervention in the image, the physical action of the artist making visual decisions, and we consider his intent. Through these gestures some element of the image is made wrong, subverting the sense of normalcy and order it initially seems to present. In the vein of Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Doherety is a secret agent, working within an existing aesthetic and subverting it to communicate his own very personal ideas.  By working alongside the tradition of studio photography Doherty is able to make his images universally sympathetic. The viewer knows how to look at this kind of image already.







Doherty’s work blurs the line between the studio and real life. This is accomplished by both bringing banal objects from his daily life into the studio and by bringing a studio approach to the real world. “I used to feel like a weird 1960s street photographer in my own life,” says Doherty of his transition toward more staged images, “now I’m just some stressed out creep hovering over a little table in my bedroom.”



At the heart of these photographs is a poetic and coy type of candor which embraces humor unreservedly. Asked how he chooses a subject for a photo, Doherty answers, “If it feels familiar.”

—MATTE Magazine for CCNY


Posted by on Jan 31, 2013 in Matthew Leifheit | No Comments

Photograph by Matthew Leifheit for CCNY

Ilona Szwarc

Born 1984 Warsaw, Poland


In the summer of 2010 I was introduced to Ilona Szwarc. Then an intern at Mary-Ellen Mark’s studio, her work seemed to further the cannon of social documentary photography, bringing a fresh eye and a proclivity for vibrant color to the disappearing field. Armed with a background in the film industry, Szwarc was in the midst of photographing her first series entitled “Anna” which focused on her mother-in-law. We collaborated on a MATTE Magazine featuring these pictures.


Szwarc’s next series entitled “American Girls” again pictured women. Due in part to its levity and in full to Szwarc’s unique eye, this series has garnered much exposure including a solo show in Paris at Galerie Claude Samuel and a feature on the New York Times Lensblog. To make these pictures Swarc adopted a 4×5 camera, initially approaching young women with American Girl dolls on the street asking to photograph them in their homes, eventually posting ads on American Girl Doll fan pages looking for subjects. This series is a humorous and sometimes unnerving look at how young girls in America construct their femininity against the backdrop of the places they come from.

Chloe, NJ

 Gillian, NY
 Jenna, MA
Kayla, MA

“One of the interactions that I remember particularly was with Jade, whom I photographed in Long Island. She described herself as a tomboy and she explained that she didn’t really have anything to choose from at the American Girl Place that would reflect her own style and personality. She had a very strong feminine side, but didn’t want to fit in the American Girl scenario,” said Swarc to MATTE. “She shared with me that in order to get matching clothes for her dolls she would go to different toy stores, like Build-a-Bear Workshop, where toy outfits were more gender neutral.”

Jade, NY

A native of Poland, Szwarc’s formative experiences in the United States occurred when she was an exchange student in high School studying in a small town called Canadian in the Texas panhandle. In 2012 she returned to TX, and noticed something new about the rodeo culture she knew from high school.  “I knew about the rodeo culture from back when I lived there, but I wasn’t aware that young girls were doing it,” says Szwarc.

“After working on my series American Girls and getting to know so many girls of that age, it was fascinating for me to discover a group of girls who had a totally different idea about their femininity. They also had a different idea about gender roles. They were engaged in activities that traditionally were reserved for men. They worked hard, they are physically strong and dominant.”

Szwarc is interested in photographing girls because she sees herself in them. “As a woman of course I relate to other women. Through photographing them I isolate and explore different aspects of my experience of being a woman. It is a way of self-portraiture, but enriched by the experience of others,” says Szwarc. As her series progresses I notice an increased taste for the surreal. The moments and situations Szwarc captures are gradually more enigmatic. Her pictures have also become more formalistically experimental, opting for the odd frame over the classically composed documentary image. She engineers these new photos to draw out strangeness in the situations depicted, leading to unsettling yet otherworldly beauty. This new work includes depictions of both men and women.

These pictures are presented naked, unaltered from the world we live in. Still they confront the viewer with supernatural realities of American existence that could only be realized by an artist with an outside perspective. “As a foreigner, I cannot separate myself from this powerful experience of living in America. I am constantly looking at this world and analyzing it,” Says Szwarc. Her pictures belie straightforward admiration of American culture and they thrive on our most sublime moments. —MATTE Magazine for CCNY

Posted by on Jan 16, 2013 in Matthew Leifheit | No Comments

Photograph by Matthew Leifheit for CCNY

Elizabeth Renstrom

Born 1990 Hartford, CT


Elizabeth Renstrom keeps a diary. Out in public she’s always writing things down or sketching in a small black notebook. She fills these books with ideas. Every new photograph or series Renstrom comes up with in her mind she physically maps out every possibility for the work on paper in order to realize her vision. As Renstrom said to MATTE Magazine, “It just helps me work out the notion that maybe I’m not crazy because if it is on paper it most certainly can be created in real life too”.

“Face Time” 2012

elizabeth renstrom

Sketch for “Face Time” 2012


Renstrom typically works within one series of photos at a time, constructing environments in-studio to be photographed.  “Much of my work is about an obsessive control over the components I’m building even if it looks like a complete mess. Working in the studio allows me the time and space I need to have ‘sculptures’ or scenarios come to fruition then documented in a formal way,” says Renstrom.

“Mermaid” 2012

“Sticker Book” 2011

“Mermaid” 2012

Set of “Alien Resurrectionz” 2012

“Cursed” 2011


Renstrom’s newest series entitled “Waxy Chunks” was recently featured in Vice Magazine’s photography issue. It’s a spooky shamanistic take on 1990s nostalgia complete with instructions for a séance. As Renstrom puts it, “I guess you could say I’m about as nostalgic as anyone my age for those defining years, but mostly I’m interested in the AMOUNT of nostalgia I see on the internet and elsewhere for that time period”. She recognized a thirst on the internet for a specific time period, and used the demand of the audience to shape the process of her art-making. “When I began ‘Waxy Chunks’ my main goal was to make photos that looked very tumble-able. What is appealing on blogs? What images do people continually curate and proliferate online? A huge answer was the ’90s”.

“Death of Slime” 2012

“Spellz” 2012

“SBURNS” 2012

“Annoint” 2012

“Hero Worship” 2012

Renstrom finds our generation’s wistfulness for the ’90s to be premature. “It’s like we didn’t have the decency as a generation to reflect and look back on it in 20 years, we had to commemorate and relive our youth 5 years after it happened”.

“Charismatic Pussy” 2013

In these pictures there is both straightforward appreciation of junior high and the wariness of its regurgitation. Renstrom’s work views the ’90s through the filter of now and indulges our want for then. —MATTE Magazine for CCNY

The Camera Club of New York presents: MATTE Magazine

Posted by on Jan 6, 2013 in Matthew Leifheit | No Comments

Photograph by Matthew Leifheit for CCNY

Matthew Leifheit

Born 1988, Chicago, IL

Photographer, publisher, designer and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. I am honored to be the current guest blogger for CCNY. Hello!

Early in 2011 I began producing a journal called MATTE Magazine, which features one artist per issue. It’s called MATTE because my name is Matthew, and because the paper on which it is printed is not very glossy. I studied photography at the Rhode Island School of Design, and this project became my thesis. I envision the magazine to be a platform for new ideas made for artists by artists. I make a portrait of the featured photographer for the cover and work closely with them on the content. Some issues include interviews, some contain essays or manifestos, and some are purely visual. I primarily focus on emerging photographers, but the magazine also functions as a repository for the lesser seen or early work of more established practitioners.

MATTE Magazine issues 1-10

 Apart from the cover and masthead every issue of the magazine is different, the result of a unique collaboration with the featured artist, the design and format tailored to best showcase their photographs. MATTE is printed in full color, saddle-stitched, and contains no advertisements. I have released ten issues to date, and they are available in these collections. Issues 11-20 are currently in production, and will be released over the coming months.

Selected spreads from MATTE Magazine:

MATTE Magazine is not for profit, and is sold at the cost of printing exclusively at Printed Matter in NYC.

Design by Oona Brangam-Snell for MATTE

I will use my time as guest blogger for CCNY as an extension of my magazine. I will lead each post with a portrait of the featured artist, and follow it with a portfolio of their work accompanied by my words. It is my intention to use this stint guest blogger to create a consistent online space to view exciting new photography and to shed some light on the motivations of each featured artist.

The Camera Club of New York presents: MATTE Magazine

Titles by Sonya Dissin for MATTE